It is not my intention in this article to condemn the entirety of Meten International English for the actions of only one of its many branches throughout China. However, I will take full responsibility for any resulting collateral damage that, in my opinion must be a necessary part of exposing “corruption” in a branch of this company in Beijing called the Zhong Guan Cun center. I should mention that my story is not an uncommon one. In fact it is likely to be among one of the more common narratives you can find about a foreigner teaching English in China, which is to say that I was tricked into a desperate situation involving an illegal residence permit and that I was “exploited,” in so far as being overworked, underpaid and manipulated. These are somewhat tall accusations so let me first begin by explaining what I mean by “tricked” and “illegal residence permit.”
Before working for Meten English in Beijing I had held at least 3 other teaching positions in similar institutions in China and if I am at any liberty to say, I felt like I had seen my fair share of “corrupt” practices in the business; however I had been willing to assume that this might have been for a specific reason. I had only worked for small “unregulated” businesses in China. I thought, perhaps, it would have been a different story had I been working for “franchises” such as EF, Wall Street, Meten, etc. So when I decided to move to Beijing in 2016, I thought that I would give one of these franchised schools a chance. I had a friend named K----, who worked in a Meten in Chengdu, so I contacted him and asked him if he knew of any teaching positions available at one of Meten’s branches in Beijing. K----put me in touch with one of his colleagues in the HR department in Chengdu whose name was Mia. What followed was an interviewing and negotiating process between Mia and I, which involved detailed correspondences that were mostly about exact procedures to follow in order to transfer my visa-related documents over to the Zhong Guan Cun branch of Meten in Beijing.
Now the trouble begins. It will later be made apparent that during these lengthy correspondences, Mia deliberately “tricked me” by forgetting to mention one key aspect of our visa-transfer process. Mia had explained to me, you see, that it was necessary to fly to Chengdu, in order to complete the process; however it was only after I had arrived in Chengdu that she told me what she had been neglecting to say all along. It was that I would have to give my passport over to her and fly back to Beijing without it. That was when I knew with certain clarity; although I would be working in Beijing, my residence permit was going to be registered in Chengdu – which is as far as anybody knows “illegal.” And so I prot*s*ed against this. But seeing as how it was much too late for me to go back on anything at this point, I was essentially left with no choice but to go along.
To provide you with more of an understanding of my motivations for doing this, it was because of my girlfriend, who was waiting for me in Beijing at the time. Being deeply in love with her and needing to be with her at all costs, there was really no way to realize this other than to go ahead with Mia’s arrangement. So I did. Yet apparently by protesting, I was making a big fuss over nothing. Mia, and later my supervisor in Beijing named Vivian, would make me feel like there was absolutely no problem with working in Beijing on a Chengdu residence permit. No problem – absolutely no problem at all; which was of course, a lie.
Now to describe some of the things that first happened to me once I began working in the Zhong Guan Cun center of Meten in Beijing. And being as how this first issue is related to accommodation, I should also initially mention that Meten includes what’s called “accommodation assistance” in the basic agreement package of a full time contract (which I signed). When I first arrived in Beijing I was living in a hotel. My supervisor Vivian put me in touch with a “foreign teacher assistant” named Sharon. Now Sharon was the one tasked with providing this accommodation assistance. Yet Sharon’s idea of doing this – helping me to find an apartment in Beijing – amounted essentially to sending a link to the classifieds section of a website. This level of unprofessionalism on the part of this “foreign teacher assistant,” aside from being an omen of bad things to come, was only further compounded by the fact that as I had expected, renting an apartment in Beijing was going to be complicated due to my Chengdu residence permit. Such sus*i*ions were confirmed when a foreign teacher, also working at Zhong Guan Cun by the name of D-----, explained to me that when he had gone through a similar situation – in receiving no help from Sharon; therefore handling the situation alone – he had been fined by the police somewhat unexpectedly on his registering them as a part of renting protocol, as a result of their discovery that his residence permit was not legally registered in Beijing. It had in fact been registered, in a similar way that mine had been, through the city of Wuhan. Not only was I surprised to find out that my residence was not the only registered illegally; later I would be told by Vivian, and also by Rebecca Pan – the general manager of the Zhong Guan Cun center – that this was simply the way things were for any and all foreign teachers working for Meten in Beijing. Now wait does that mean that every single foreign teacher working for Meten in Beijing did not possess a Beijing residence permit? Apparently, yes – according to Vivian and Rebecca – yes, this was the case; which would mean that any foreign teacher at the Zhong Cun Center as well as in the larger and more prominent Guo Mao center in Beijing, were all working there illegally.
Now – wait a minute – does any of this really matter? So what if these residence permits were registered through other cities. The law in China is filled with little gray areas just like these. Come on were there any real consequences to this minor fudging of the law? Of holding a residence permit in one city while working in another? Well – yes. Yes—there were.
Let me just outline in brief the conflict I experienced with my Landlord as a result of being stuck with a fraudulent residence permit. I have already mentioned that I was helped very little to find a residence in Beijing when I first arrived; especially in considering that one important step in renting an apartment in China – well in working in China in general – would have been registering at a local police station. Needless to say I did not do this. Because the apartment that I would rent ultimately was through a connection to a Meten employee, my Landlord was willing to turn a blind eye to my illegal residence status. Now you might be thinking that this was a good thing. Well, of course it wasn’t – not due to the fact that later, my Landlord was able to use this information as leverage against me, in order to force me to vacate his property – even in clear violation of the contract that we had signed. He basically threatened to reveal my illegality to the authorities if I didn’t comply with his demands. And when I spoke to a lawyer about this issue I found out that, naturally, the only way to protect my right to live there until the end of my lease was – you guessed it – to take the conflict to the police. But in doing this obviously that would have revealed my illegal status. And so you can see how I got trapped inside of that tricky situation.
What Vivian had once told me at the beginning of my stay in Beijing – which was that if I should ever come across any trouble that I should first come directly to her and not to the police – it all made sense! Of course living in Beijing on a Chengdu residence permit was no problem! No problem indeed.
Anyways the problems that resulted from working on this illegal residence permit is just the tip of the iceberg – especially when it comes to what is really wrong with not only the Zhong Guan Cun branch of Meten in Beijing but also, basically, all of these kinds of training schools in China in general. So now I’ll get into some of the more fundamental problems with the organization of Meten International English itself. In order to do that let me briefly discuss problems from the point of view of students (who may, more appropriately, be called “customers”) who pay for the services that Meten provides. I’ll describe an ordeal that I witnessed in my time working for Meten. One that illustrates the way fundamental problems of the organization effect both customers and staff alike.
There had been a student, you see, whose parents were dissatisfied with the product that they had purchased. It appeared that there had been a little dishonesty on one side, but gullibility on the other side – all in all, this “customer” had requested a refund. According to company policy, refunds are basically impossible; yet due to how much this particular customer felt like they had been cheated out of their money they went so far as to hire a group of t*u*s to “shake up” the center, in what was essentially an exercise in intimidation tactics – aimed at getting the refund that this customer seemed to feel, overwhelmingly, like they deserved. It cannot be denied that the presence of intimidating t*u*s, on at least three separate occasions at Zhong Guan Cun, made for a very unpleasant situation in our center. But that is not what I want to focus on. What I want to highlight from this unpleasant situation is the result of it; which was that in their determination to get what they wanted or as some form of revenge, apparently, this customer put pressure on police to bust Meten for employing illegal teachers in Zhong Guan Cun. From what I understand D----- (previously mentioned, who had been working on a Wuhan residence permit) as well as another teacher N----, were made to leave the school in the aftermath of this conflict.
For whatever reason, I was luckily spared from this. Although I have no reason to believe that anything other than luck is what spared me from suffering from the repercussions of this incident. It had just so happened to be that it was my day off when the police had carried out this raid!
One point I am trying to get at here is related to the fact that D----- and N-----, these two guys, were both well-liked teachers at Zhong Guan Cun. Both of them had developed a nice rapport with their students to the extent to which, once they had ultimately been expelled, it would make them sorely missed. It’s a fact that relates to one of the sad truths about an institution like Meten. That is to say that as a “school” it cares just as little for the well being of its teachers as it cares about the satisfaction of its students. If you ask me, your typical student is not going to like the fact that their teacher, who they have been growing to understand and learn from over a period of time, might vanish just like that with little to no explanation (nor will the teacher I would imagine). For when the reason is related to questionable business practices and illegal workers – why would this truth be told? Believe it or not it was the reality at Zhong Guan Cun. And as a result of that students must have felt like teachers working at their center just came and went, while in the same way, teachers themselves (like myself) started to understand that they were expendable. Finally, when the company went on to hire unqualified replacements to cover its loses, that must have left little doubt in the minds of customers and staff alike that management cares little about them. And above all I am going to have to conclude by saying that I believe this shows that a company like Meten cares very little about selling a quality product. Here is a quote that I think illustrates what’s going on here. The philosopher Alan Watts once said: “Most of our products are being made by people who do not enjoy making them, whether as owners or workers. Their aim in the enterprise is not the product but money, and therefore every trick is used to cut the cost of production and hoodwink the buyer, by coloring and packaging , into the belief that the product is well and truly made.”
This particular quote by Alan Watts could not be more representative of what I think is often wrong with a company like Meten, and the business of English education in China in general. On that note, I would like to move on to discuss problems generally with the product that Meten is selling. That means focusing not only on the curriculum of the institution, but also on those who facilitate it.
Actually this is a point where I would like to express some degree of admiration for those people who first designed what lies at the core of Meten’s basic curriculum. There are many lessons contained in the M2, M3 and M4 book series of the Meten curriculum that I have much respect for, having used many of them repeatedly over the course of nearly a year. I found a lot of smart logic and real creativity behind some of these designs and it’s clear to me that the team assembled to put this curriculum together was highly talented, indeed, and qualified for the job that they were hired to do.
However, when one takes a closer look at the curriculum, it is easy to see that whatever quality is there ends right there, mostly, after that initial creative spark. Beyond that it’s obvious that, along the line, management started to rush their development team. A lot of ideas got repeated; a lot ended up not making sense in the way they were presented; typos are frequently discovered in the final product; important aspects of the curriculum were probably never t*s*ed. That is because if more of the curriculum had been t*s*ed before it was packaged and slapped onto a conveyor belt – so to speak – I’m sure someone would have realized that overall, some aspects of these lessons were quite useless or impractical in the classroom. (I am thinking specifically of the Grammar sections in M3 or the pronunciation sections in M4.) And if you want to find the most concrete evidence of sloppy work that was done, likely to conform to unrealistic deadlines from upper management, look no further than the “Teacher’s Books.”
These contain, ostensibly, lesson plans that one would assume provide the framework for teachers to utilize in teaching lessons in M2, M3 or M4. Although in reality these “Teaching Books” contain abundant typos; lack in most cases even coherent ways of describing what the plan is; and often do not even correlate with actual materials in the lesson. Those texts almost certainly never would have received a pass from even the most lenient of all editors; yet there they are – having been produced en masse. They are there, having been made available for use by anyone who might be naïve enough to believe that lesson plans are actually contained inside of these books; that material inside would amount to anything resembling guidance in developing a teaching strategy. The truth is that if they amount to anything at all its little more than a nice, good laugh; which I guess is important, because it can provide in this regard a bit of joy at least, in what I dare say becomes the rather dull, predictable grind that working for Meten English inevitably entails.
Like I have said, there is something good behind many of the lessons in the Meten curriculum as it stands; although overall, in my opinion these ideas were ultimately ruined by the careless and rushed quality of the editing and publication process. It’s clear that the curriculum was intended to look good but not necessarily to perform well. It also goes along with the overall ethos of this company in which grabbing up new customers becomes that much more important than guaranteeing the satisfaction of its existing customers. Not to mention that the dysfunctional nature of the Meten curriculum inevitably poses a problem for the teachers who have to work with it on a daily basis. Teachers will come to regard the Meten curriculum as self-evidently embarrassing. (This was the attitude held by many of the teachers that I worked with at Zhong Guan Cun). Once everyone, including the so called “teaching manager,” comes to a quite vocal agreement on the awfulness of the curriculum, that is when an overwhelming attitude towards “disregarding the book” and “just chatting” in class becomes the accepted norm. In fact it becomes such an ingrained facet of working at a place like Meten that to actually try to follow the book, or to teach a class in a more traditional or methodical way, actually turns into somewhat of a vain and unrealistic tendency among those who walk this path. (I cannot say, obviously, that this must be the reality of all Meten centers in China. Yet this was undoubtedly the reality at Zhong Guan Cun.)
To most of the people at Meten doing the selling of the product, they all seem to understand that at the core of what they are selling, it basically just amounts to time in a room with a foreigner – one who essentially needs to do very little other than “just chat” with the customer. And as far as I am concerned, those “teachers” at Meten who understand this fact, are often the ones who succeed brilliantly. It has a cheapening effect over time I do believe, on what it really means to be an “English teacher” in China. And it does reinforce the notion that every single teacher is quite replaceable; and that even those who are traditionally unqualified to teach English as a Second Language, can easily fill the role.
As you would expect in this environment, filling up individual timeslots of the schedule with students becomes quite a bit more important than whatever it is that students are actually being taught in those timeslots. Timeslots essentially break down into money here, which brings me to my next point, where I should like to elaborate on my claim of having been “exploited” by this company. In the most basic meaning of this term “exploited,” I am claiming to have been, due to the fact that I was being paid on the average lower than what I would expect most teachers in Beijing are making – that is under more legal circumstances. See, while I was indeed living and working in Beijing, it was not only that I was living on a Chengdu residence permit, I was also being paid what you could call a Chengdu salary. That is to say that even though I was laboring in a first tier city, I was being paid what amounted to the value of laboring in a second tier city. Maybe that seems inconsequential to you, but when you consider on the one hand that the average cost of rent in Beijing is about three times higher than that of rent in Chengdu, it’s significant. Now according to Rebecca Pan – this was justified in being according to company policy (just like the phony residence permits). Yet it is hard for me to believe that this was anything other than just taking money out of my pocket by paying me less than what my labor apparently should have been worth.
At least there’s one way that the company amended the fact of underpaying teachers in this situation; which is basically in the tricky way that the company motivates teachers to overwork themselves. Full Time teachers, dare I say, inevitably become trapped in a grind at Meten for at least two reasons. One is in how being paid a below average salary drives you to reach after overtime bonuses, in order to balance that out. The other is due primarily to the way in which scheduling practices, for purposes of m*x*mizing profits, play Full Time labor against Part Time labor. As you would imagine, Part Time teachers are often trying to m*x*mize their hours; but see, those doing the scheduling at Meten will try to m*x*mize the hours of Full Time teachers at the expense of Part Time teachers to save money. It makes good financial sense, yet at the same time, it does contribute to what I believe is the overall degradation of the product that is being sold. Because since that product is “education” mind you, it cannot be systematized into some kind of material commodity – such as what might be produced in a factory like setting. Yet teaching in this context does begin to feel a bit like working on an assembly line. It’s the result of the absolute authority of the schedule that’s operating always in the best interest of m*x*mizing company profits. What it in turn creates, is a work force of jaded teachers who submit to the fact that they have become nothing more than “teaching machines,” because “according to company policy,” that’s just the way things work.
A good example of a conflict that will arise from this total capitalizing method of scheduling can be seen in the way that weekend work is handled. Full Time teachers generally handle classes on the weekdays; however anyone who has ever worked in a training school in China knows that the busiest time for all involved at the center is on the weekends. Now, even though Part Time teachers are often at their highest availability during the weekends, m*x*mizing Full Time teachers at the expense of Part Time teachers means that Full Time teachers have to work weekends as well, generally I suppose, to cut down on the cost of Part Time teachers. (It would be reasonable for me to assume that, being independent of the company, Part Time teachers command pay at a rate more suited to the standard in Beijing, i.e. their labor is more costly). This was the way that it worked at the Zhong Guan Cun center, where I would frequently be told that it was “impossible” for me to take a day off on Sat*r*ay or Sunday. And although this comes with the territory, I suppose, the same principle was applied when it came to holidays – without which, work can no doubt begin to produce dehumanizing effects. I cannot even begin to express to you the amount of frustration that I experienced in trying just to plan a simple 6-day holiday with my girlfriend – what should have been a very simple process in practice turned into an exhaustive effort requiring of extensive negotiations.
It leads me to have no qualms in saying that the company m*x*mized profits even at the expense of the well being of its own teachers, exhausting them to the point of breaking. That is how trying to take a winter or a summer vacation while working at Meten felt. Both times I would have to work 7 days in a row before and after the period of vacation time (which in my view, for all intents and purposes defeats the point of taking a vacation). The reason why this happened was because, according to company policy, the number of days that a foreign teacher was allotted off every month should have been smashed into a small window of time designated as “vacation” apparently, which would then require said teacher to make up for this extended period of “absence” by working overtime. Later, this practice would be removed, after complaints from people like myself. It was criticized by Vivian and ultimately blamed on Sharon. Perhaps, this is the most relevant time to mention that another part of Sharon’s job, other than scheduling teachers into oblivion, was to act as callous and inflexible as possible for reasons which, I can only imagine must be attributed to the weight of pressure coming down on her from above; from people like Vivian, who would use Sharon to make things work in this way – but in the end seems to have used her as a scapegoat as well.
Okay so before this account of mine becomes overlong (and it’s clear that it already has; for which I apologize) I should move on to describing the final conflict that resulted in my spilt from Meten – the event that has motivated me to write this overlong article in the first place. I’ve already mentioned that there was a feeling of becoming a “teaching machine” at Meten; which was the result of a system that, overall, I believe devalued the quality of its product (“education”) in so far as it tried to m*x*mize its profits by squeezing its teachers into tight scheduling cogs. As the ultimate effect of all of this, everything came to a head for me one day when after working five days in a row like usual, I had been ordered to come in for work on the sixth day in a row. It was because a particular student of mine had requested a one-on-one lesson with me on that day. I didn’t mind that. I had been happy to oblige, of course; but then what had happened was the student unexpectedly cancelled at the last minute. I asked my supervisor, Vivian, if under these circumstances – would it be acceptable if I went home? This, Vivian said, was impossible. She had already gone on to schedule more classes for me to teach in the evening on that day; one of which was an all important demo class.
Okay – up until this point in time I can say with all honesty that I had tried to be the very model of a good teacher at the school; always going above and beyond to prepare good classes for my students; making honest efforts towards personal improvement, and so on. I generally took pride in the kind of work that I was doing. But the strain of the assembly line schedule and my feeling that those honest efforts I had been putting into teaching were being underappreciated, all of that had begun to get to me. I had literally begun to feel like a teaching machine. It’s funny actually, because Vivian as the teaching manager had tried to assure me on numerous occasions that the very last thing that she would have ever wanted for her teachers was for them to start feeling like they were teaching machines. I suppose that was why I expected that Vivian was going to hear me when I expressed “how tired” I was on that day. Indeed, how I thought she would empathize – could see that her supposed fears of running a force of teaching machines after all, might have always been the truth. Could she understand this fact and perhaps modify the schedule accordingly? If you can imagine this was strictly against company policy. Absolutely nothing that Vivian could do about it, she said.
To make a long story short I told Vivian that I would teach the classes if she was absolutely going to force me to teach them. Yet if that was going to happen then, I hoped she would understand that as a result, I was going to become extraordinarily unhappy about that fact. And not only that, but if this was how the school wanted to continue to operate, then there should have remained little doubt afterwards – her teachers were unambiguously teaching machines. And that in despite of what she had said, she was either incapable, or unwilling to do anything about that. You can guess what happened. I was forced to teach the classes. (I suppose I did it mostly out of a feeling of obligation to my students. Perhaps, also to test the limits of my capability to teach as if a “machine.” Yet in the end, I would refuse to teach the final demo class. I left work without permission. And this was an action that needless to say angered management tremendously.)
My attitude towards working for Meten at that point became very negative; however was still determined to put my best foot forward when it came to teaching. This was all in despite of a persistent desire to want to quit; nonetheless I was adamant about finishing out my one-year contract. That brings me to the final discussion that I would like to have about Meten English. It details the last conflict that I had with the company – how it would be rendered impossible for me to fulfill my goal of completing the one-year contract.
I will have to return back to an issue from the beginning of my story, when I was corresponding with the Meten employee Mia from Chengdu HR. There was another problem with my visa that originated at this stage, other than that of my residence being issued through Chengdu. It was that even though the contract I signed with Meten was to be completed on January 9th, 2017, for whatever reason (which in hindsight I do believe was nefarious) Mia had my visa registered to expire on December 21st, 2016. I had not noticed this particular detail about my visa until sometime after the fact. It was perhaps around February of 2016 when I first brought it to the attention of Vivian; who assured me that Mia had assured her that this was absolutely going to be no problem.
Yes, of course – no problem. Of course it wasn’t – not in their eyes.
But from my perspective I knew that this was going to pose a serious problem indeed. If for no other reason than as per the contract, a “flight reimburs*m*nt” that a teacher is promised to receive as a part of their basic salary package, is forfeited on the condition that said teacher fails to complete the one-year contract. Now, I should say here that even in despite of the difficulties that I was facing working for Meten, I didn’t only want to finish my one-year contract – actually I was prepared to renew my contract with the company for another year. The reason why I was willing to do this is not exactly important (but it has to do with the fact that a lot of time that I could have been using to search for another job was being spent on trying to finish writing a novel). Whether I would renew my contract for another year or not, however, the simple fact remained that just to finish my current contract – the company was going to have to renew my visa as it was; that is if I was going to work until January 9th, 2017; being that my visa would expire two weeks or so prior to that date. I expressed all of this to Vivian. It seemed that in order to keep me working quietly, and obliviously until I was no longer needed, she would speak very ambiguously about this topic – misrepresenting the fact that the company, actually, had no intentions of renewing my contract for another year.
Around October, when important decisions about my visa were going to have to be made, an event occurred which kicked everything off into high gear. My Landlord began asking me to pay him for 3 months rent, but considering that I didn’t know what my situation was going to be like in the immediate future, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind that I gave him only one month of rent this time; which would give me room to confirm with my company about whether or not I would be renewing my contract for another year. Making a long story short, my Landlord began demanding that I move out of my apartment, while all the while, Vivian continued to stall me in answering the question of whether the company was going to renew. I explained to Vivian that if the company was not going to renew, then I was going to have no choice but to quit in order to find a new job and a new apartment. Yet in all of this, I continued to insist on wanting to finish the one-year contract. And so in solution to the problem of having to quit before the contract had finished, Vivian promised me that in the case of the company declining to renew my contract, what they could do was extend my visa to February 9th. This would give me the time that I needed, not only to finish the contract, but also to find another job – an important condition of continuing to work for Meten in this time. So I agreed that this was in fact the best possible solution.
Yet everything went wrong; so where did it?
Well – sometime around late October – as I expected Rebecca told me that the company was not going to renew my contract. Although I was disappointed, nevertheless, I began searching for a new job while continuing to fulfill my obligations to work for Meten. That was with the knowledge that my visa was going to be extended to February 9th. Of course it was in this way, and in this way only that everything would be able to go according to plan. One day, however, right before I was set to send my passport to Chengdu for Mia to take care of the extension process, Vivian took me aside and explained to me that, in fact, the company was only going to extend my visa to January 9th. What? I couldn’t understand. Why? I was furious. Why had she promised otherwise? It had no doubt been another layer of stalling. The result of which was an impossible time crunch; considering that the extension process was going to take over 25 days, and by the time that I would receive my passport back from Chengdu with the extended visa (an extension of about 2 weeks), there would not be enough remaining time for me to put my passport into the hands of another company, for the purposes of transferring my visa over to them (a process that would normally take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks).
I was left in a bind in which my two choices were (1) finish my contract in order to receive my flight reimburs*m*nt, but as a consequence be unable to transfer my visa to another company before my visa expired; or (2) quit working for Meten right then and there, which in that situation I would not be receiving my flight reimburs*m*nt. It was all a result of what I believe were the careful manipulations of who more than likely was the brain behind the majority of this scam, general manager Rebecca Pan.
And so I quit.
And it was such an infuriating experience in my life that it felt no less than like a duty that I should have to write it all like this.
I would like to apologize that this has become such a long-winded article. If you have continued on reading up until this point then it is quite kind of you. The details of my experience teaching English for Meten in Beijing are a bit too mundane to be truly interesting, I admit. However, my basic intention here has been to write an accurate description in full of the general situation happening at the Zhong Guan Cun center of Meten in Beijing. And which in that regard, I hope it might serve merely as evidence of a corrupt branch of this company that one would be smart to avoid.
I want to dedicate this article to Cao Huan – love of my life – who I was forced to leave behind in Beijing as the direct result of this ordeal with Meten. Huan was beyond supportive of me throughout the entirety of this long struggle, one that even left me in the tatters of a nervous breakdown. Nothing apart from my own failure to amend this conflict is what has created the massive divide that lies between the two of us now…
Finally in conclusion I would like to say that from this experience, I have learned that the larger training schools in China are by no means safer, or more legitimate than their smaller, less famous counterparts. On the contrary, here in these larger schools corruption may be even more ingrained into the corporate structure. The education business in China is in a sorry state if the drive for pure profit continues to cheapen the quality of the product being sold – and while its workers are being exploited and its customers being duped, as I believe I have shown. It’s true China remains an extraordinary place both to live and work; however teaching English there, perhaps has always been, and always will be, a rather bleak part of that.